One of the most shocking events in metal history wasn’t Black Sabbath firing Ozzy Osbourne, but that it found a new front man who built his own legend. Ronnie James Dio’s two ’80s albums with Sab are acknowledged as classics and now reissued as 40th anniversary sets, with bonus tracks and live material.
Heaven & Hell itself was a landmark, yielding stompers like “Neon Knights,” “Children of the Sea,” and the monumental title cut. This two-CD set also has period concert cuts, including a pile-driving “Die Young.” The live groove laid down by axe god Tony Iommi, bassist/lyricist Geezer Butler, and drummer Bill Ward (a week before he quit) is terrifying. Tony’s SG solo is a blistering shot of electricity.
Despite spectacularly ugly cover art, 1981’s Mob Rules contains prime Dio. On the opener, “Turn Up the Night,” Iommi delivers Van-Halen-esque trills to fit the times. “Sign of the Southern Cross” is genius-level Sab, deploying quiet acoustic guitar before the inevitable wall-of-crunch arrives.
Both of Sab’s post-Ozzy albums helped transition ’70s metal to the ’80s polish of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Scorpions, and, well, Dio. If you love Black Sabbath and screaming SGs, both reissues are mandatory metal.
This article originally appeared in VG’s July 2021 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.